The curtain falls.
A Court of Justice, on a foggy October afternoon crowded with barristers, solicitors, reporters, ushers, and jurymen. Sitting in the large, solid dock is FALDER, with a warder on either side of him, placed there for his safe custody, but seemingly indifferent to and unconscious of his presence. FALDER is sitting exactly opposite to the JUDGE, who, raised above the clamour of the court, also seems unconscious of and indifferent to everything. HAROLD CLEAVER, the counsel for the Crown, is a dried, yellowish man, of more than middle age, in a wig worn almost to the colour of his face. HECTOR FROME, the counsel for the defence, is a young, tall man, clean shaved, in a very white wig. Among the spectators, having already given their evidence, are JAMES and WALTER HOW, and COWLEY, the cashier. WISTER, the detective, is just leaving the witness-box.
CLEAVER That is the case for the Crown, me lud!
Gathering his robes together, he sits down.
FROME [Rising and bowing to the JUDGE] If it please your lordship and gentlemen of the jury. I am not going to dispute the fact that the prisoner altered this cheque, but I am going to put before you evidence as to the condition of his mind, and to submit that you would not be justified in finding that he was responsible for his actions at the time. I am going to show you, in fact, that he did this in a moment of aberration, amounting to temporary insanity, caused by the violent distress under which he was labouring. Gentlemen, the prisoner is only twenty-three years old. I shall call before you a woman from whom you will learn the events that led up to this act. You will hear from her own lips the tragic circumstances of her life, the still more tragic infatuation with which she has inspired the prisoner. This woman, gentlemen, has been leading a miserable existence with a husband who habitually ill-uses her, from whom she actually goes in terror of her life. I am not, of course, saying that it's either right or desirable for a young man to fall in love with a married woman, or that it's his business to rescue her from an ogre-like husband. I'm not saying anything of the sort. But we all know the power of the passion of love; and I would ask you to remember, gentlemen, in listening to her evidence, that, married to a drunken and violent husband, she has no power to get rid of him; for, as you know, another offence besides violence is necessary to enable a woman to obtain a divorce; and of this offence it does not appear that her husband is guilty.
JUDGE Is this relevant, Mr. Frome?
FROME My lord, I submit, extremely--I shall be able to show your lordship that directly.
JUDGE Very well.
FROME In these circumstances, what alternatives were left to her? She could either go on living with this drunkard, in terror of her life; or she could apply to the Court for a separation order. Well, gentlemen, my experience of such cases assures me that this would have given her very insufficient protection from the violence of such a man; and even if effectual would very likely have reduced her either to the workhouse or the streets--for it's not easy, as she is now finding, for an unskilled woman without means of livelihood to support herself and her children without resorting either to the Poor Law or--to speak quite plainly--to the sale of her body.
JUDGE You are ranging rather far, Mr. Frome.
FROME I shall fire point-blank in a minute, my lord.
JUDGE Let us hope so.
FROME Now, gentlemen, mark--and this is what I have been leading up to--this woman will tell you, and the prisoner will confirm her, that, confronted with such alternatives, she set her whole hopes on himself, knowing the feeling with which she had inspired him. She saw a way out of her misery by going with him to a new country, where they would both be unknown, and might pass as husband and wife. This was a desperate and, as my friend Mr. Cleaver will no doubt call it, an immoral resolution; but, as a fact, the minds of both of them were constantly turned towards it. One wrong is no excuse for another, and those who are never likely to be faced by such a situation possibly have the right to hold up their hands--as to that I prefer to say nothing. But whatever view you take, gentlemen, of this part of the prisoner's story--whatever opinion you form of the right of these two young people under such circumstances to take the law into their own hands--the fact remains that this young woman in her distress, and this young man, little more than a boy, who was so devotedly attached to her, did conceive this--if you like-- reprehensible design of going away together. Now, for that, of course, they required money, and--they had none. As to the actual events of the morning of July 7th, on which this cheque was altered, the events on which I rely to prove the defendant's irresponsibility --I shall allow those events to speak for themselves, through the lips of my witness. Robert Cokeson. [He turns, looks round, takes up a sheet of paper, and waits.]
COKESON is summoned into court, and goes into the witness-box, holding his hat before him. The oath is administered to him.
FROME What is your name?
COKESON Robert Cokeson.
FROME Are you managing clerk to the firm of solicitors who employ the prisoner?
FROME How long had the prisoner been in their employ?
COKESON Two years. No, I'm wrong there--all but seventeen days.
FROME Had you him under your eye all that time?
COKESON Except Sundays and holidays.
FROME Quite so. Let us hear, please, what you have to say about his general character during those two years.
COKESON [Confidentially to the jury, and as if a little surprised at being asked] He was a nice, pleasant-spoken young man. I'd no fault to find with him--quite the contrary. It was a great surprise to me when he did a thing like that.
FROME Did he ever give you reason to suspect his honesty?
COKESON No! To have dishonesty in our office, that'd never do.
FROME I'm sure the jury fully appreciate that, Mr. Cokeson.
COKESON Every man of business knows that honesty's 'the sign qua non'.
FROME Do you give him a good character all round, or do you not?
COKESON [Turning to the JUDGE] Certainly. We were all very jolly and pleasant together, until this happened. Quite upset me.
FROME Now, coming to the morning of the 7th of July, the morning on which the cheque was altered. What have you to say about his demeanour that morning?
COKESON [To the jury] If you ask me, I don't think he was quite compos when he did it.
THE JUDGE [Sharply] Are you suggesting that he was insane?
COKESON Not compos.
THE JUDGE A little more precision, please.
FROME [Smoothly] Just tell us, Mr. Cokeson.
COKESON [Somewhat outraged] Well, in my opinion--[looking at the JUDGE]--such as it is--he was jumpy at the time. The jury will understand my meaning.
FROME Will you tell us how you came to that conclusion?
COKESON Ye-es, I will. I have my lunch in from the restaurant, a chop and a potato--saves time. That day it happened to come just as Mr. Walter How handed me the cheque. Well, I like it hot; so I went into the clerks' office and I handed the cheque to Davis, the other clerk, and told him to get change. I noticed young Falder walking up and down. I said to him: "This is not the Zoological Gardens, Falder."
FROME Do you remember what he answered?
COKESON Ye-es: "I wish to God it were!" Struck me as funny.
FROME Did you notice anything else peculiar?
COKESON I did.
FROME What was that?
COKESON His collar was unbuttoned. Now, I like a young man to be neat. I said to him: "Your collar's unbuttoned."
FROME And what did he answer?
COKESON Stared at me. It wasn't nice.
THE JUDGE Stared at you? Isn't that a very common practice?
COKESON Ye-es, but it was the look in his eyes. I can't explain my meaning--it was funny.
FROME Had you ever seen such a look in his eyes before?
COKESON No. If I had I should have spoken to the partners. We can't have anything eccentric in our profession.
THE JUDGE Did you speak to them on that occasion?
COKESON [Confidentially] Well, I didn't like to trouble them about prime facey evidence.
FROME But it made a very distinct impression on your mind?
COKESON Ye-es. The clerk Davis could have told you the same.
FROME Quite so. It's very unfortunate that we've not got him here. Now can you tell me of the morning on which the discovery of the forgery was made? That would be the 18th. Did anything happen that morning?
COKESON [With his hand to his ear] I'm a little deaf.
FROME Was there anything in the course of that morning--I mean before the discovery--that caught your attention?
COKESON Ye-es--a woman.
THE JUDGE How is this relevant, Mr. Frome?
FROME I am trying to establish the state of mind in which the prisoner committed this act, my lord.
THE JUDGE I quite appreciate that. But this was long after the act.
FROME Yes, my lord, but it contributes to my contention.
THE JUDGE Well!
FROME You say a woman. Do you mean that she came to the office?
FROME What for?
COKESON Asked to see young Falder; he was out at the moment.
FROME Did you see her?
COKESON I did.
FROME Did she come alone?
COKESON [Confidentially] Well, there you put me in a difficulty. I mustn't tell you what the office-boy told me.
FROME Quite so, Mr. Cokeson, quite so----
COKESON [Breaking in with an air of "You are young--leave it to me"] But I think we can get round it. In answer to a question put to her by a third party the woman said to me: "They're mine, sir."
THE JUDGE What are? What were?
COKESON Her children. They were outside.
THE JUDGE HOW do you know?
COKESON Your lordship mustn't ask me that, or I shall have to tell you what I was told--and that'd never do.
THE JUDGE [Smiling] The office-boy made a statement.
FROME What I want to ask you, Mr. Cokeson, is this. In the course of her appeal to see Falder, did the woman say anything that you specially remember?
COKESON [Looking at him as if to encourage him to complete the sentence] A leetle more, sir.
FROME Or did she not?
COKESON She did. I shouldn't like you to have led me to the answer.
FROME [With an irritated smile] Will you tell the jury what it was?
COKESON "It's a matter of life and death."
FOREMAN OF THE JURY Do you mean the woman said that?
COKESON [Nodding] It's not the sort of thing you like to have said to you.
FROME [A little impatiently] Did Falder come in while she was there? [COKESON nods] And she saw him, and went away?
COKESON Ah! there I can't follow you. I didn't see her go.
FROME Well, is she there now?
COKESON [With an indulgent smile] No!
FROME Thank you, Mr. Cokeson. [He sits down.]
CLEAVER [Rising] You say that on the morning of the forgery the prisoner was jumpy. Well, now, sir, what precisely do you mean by that word?
COKESON [Indulgently] I want you to understand. Have you ever seen a dog that's lost its master? He was kind of everywhere at once with his eyes.
CLEAVER Thank you; I was coming to his eyes. You called them "funny." What are we to understand by that? Strange, or what?
COKESON Ye-es, funny.
COKESON [Sharply] Yes, sir, but what may be funny to you may not be funny to me, or to the jury. Did they look frightened, or shy, or fierce, or what?
COKESON You make it very hard for me. I give you the word, and you want me to give you another.
CLEAVER [Rapping his desk] Does "funny" mean mad?
CLEAVER Not mad, fun----
CLEAVER Very well! Now you say he had his collar unbuttoned? Was it a hot day?
COKESON Ye-es; I think it was.
CLEAVER And did he button it when you called his attention to it?
COKESON Ye-es, I think he did.
CLEAVER Would you say that that denoted insanity?
He sits downs. COKESON, who has opened his mouth to reply, is left gaping.
FROME [Rising hastily] Have you ever caught him in that dishevelled state before?
COKESON No! He was always clean and quiet.
FROME That will do, thank you.
COKESON turns blandly to the JUDGE, as though to rebuke counsel for not remembering that the JUDGE might wish to have a chance; arriving at the conclusion that he is to be asked nothing further, he turns and descends from the box, and sits down next to JAMES and WALTER.
FROME Ruth Honeywill.
RUTH comes into court, and takes her stand stoically in the witness-box. She is sworn.
FROME What is your name, please?
RUTH Ruth Honeywill.
FROME How old are you?
FROME You are a married woman, living with your husband? A little louder.
RUTH No, sir; not since July.
FROME Have you any children?
RUTH Yes, sir, two.
FROME Are they living with you?
RUTH Yes, sir.
FROME You know the prisoner?
RUTH [Looking at him] Yes.
FROME What was the nature of your relations with him?
RUTH We were friends.
THE JUDGE Friends?
RUTH [Simply] Lovers, sir.
THE JUDGE [Sharply] In what sense do you use that word?
RUTH We love each other.
THE JUDGE Yes, but----
RUTH [Shaking her head] No, your lordship--not yet.
THE JUDGE 'Not yet! H'm! [He looks from RUTH to FALDER] Well!
FROME What is your husband?
FROME And what was the nature of your married life?
RUTH [Shaking her head] It don't bear talking about.
FROME Did he ill-treat you, or what?
RUTH Ever since my first was born.
FROME In what way?
RUTH I'd rather not say. All sorts of ways.
THE JUDGE I am afraid I must stop this, you know.
RUTH [Pointing to FALDER] He offered to take me out of it, sir. We were going to South America.
FROME [Hastily] Yes, quite--and what prevented you?
RUTH I was outside his office when he was taken away. It nearly broke my heart.
FROME You knew, then, that he had been arrested?
RUTH Yes, sir. I called at his office afterwards, and [pointing to COKESON] that gentleman told me all about it.
FROME Now, do you remember the morning of Friday, July 7th?
RUTH My husband nearly strangled me that morning.
THE JUDGE Nearly strangled you!
RUTH [Bowing her head] Yes, my lord.
FROME With his hands, or----?
RUTH Yes, I just managed to get away from him. I went straight to my friend. It was eight o'clock.
THE JUDGE In the morning? Your husband was not under the influence of liquor then?
RUTH It wasn't always that.
FROME In what condition were you?
RUTH In very bad condition, sir. My dress was torn, and I was half choking.
FROME Did you tell your friend what had happened?
RUTH Yes. I wish I never had.
FROME It upset him?
FROME Did he ever speak to you about a cheque?
FROZE Did he ever give you any money?
FROME When was that?
RUTH On Saturday.
FROME The 8th?
RUTH To buy an outfit for me and the children, and get all ready to start.
FROME Did that surprise you, or not?
RUTH What, sir?
FROME That he had money to give you.
Ring. Yes, because on the morning when my husband nearly killed me my friend cried because he hadn't the money to get me away. He told me afterwards he'd come into a windfall.
FROME And when did you last see him?
RUTH The day he was taken away, sir. It was the day we were to have started.
FROME Oh, yes, the morning of the arrest. Well, did you see him at all between the Friday and that morning? [RUTH nods] What was his manner then?
RUTH Dumb--like--sometimes he didn't seem able to say a word.
FROME As if something unusual had happened to him?
FROME Painful, or pleasant, or what?
RUTH Like a fate hanging over him.
FROME [Hesitating] Tell me, did you love the prisoner very much?
RUTH [Bowing her head] Yes.
FROME And had he a very great affection for you?
RUTH [Looking at FALDER] Yes, sir.
FROME Now, ma'am, do you or do you not think that your danger and unhappiness would seriously affect his balance, his control over his actions?
FROME His reason, even?
RUTH For a moment like, I think it would.
FROME Was he very much upset that Friday morning, or was he fairly calm?
RUTH Dreadfully upset. I could hardly bear to let him go from me.
FROME Do you still love him?
RUTH [With her eyes on FALDER] He's ruined himself for me.
FROME Thank you.
He sits down. RUTH remains stoically upright in the witness- box.
CLEAVER [In a considerate voice] When you left him on the morning of Friday the 7th you would not say that he was out of his mind, I suppose?
RUTH No, sir.
CLEAVER Thank you; I've no further questions to ask you.
RUTH [Bending a little forward to the jury] I would have done the same for him; I would indeed.
THE JUDGE Please, please! You say your married life is an unhappy one? Faults on both sides?
RUTH Only that I never bowed down to him. I don't see why I should, sir, not to a man like that.
THE JUDGE You refused to obey him?
RUTH [Avoiding the question] I've always studied him to keep things nice.
THE JUDGE Until you met the prisoner--was that it?
RUTH No; even after that.
THE JUDGE I ask, you know, because you seem to me to glory in this affection of yours for the prisoner.
RUTH [Hesitating] I--I do. It's the only thing in my life now.
THE JUDGE [Staring at her hard] Well, step down, please.
RUTH looks at FALDER, then passes quietly down and takes her seat among the witnesses.
FROME I call the prisoner, my lord.
FALDER leaves the dock; goes into the witness-box, and is duly sworn.
FROME What is your name?
FALDER William Falder.
FROME And age?
FROME You are not married?
FALDER shakes his head
FROME How long have you known the last witness?
FALDER Six months.
FROME Is her account of the relationship between you a correct one?
FROME You became devotedly attached to her, however?
THE JUDGE Though you knew she was a married woman?
FALDER I couldn't help it, your lordship.
THE JUDGE Couldn't help it?
FALDER I didn't seem able to.
The JUDGE slightly shrugs his shoulders.
FROME How did you come to know her?
FALDER Through my married sister.
FROME Did you know whether she was happy with her husband?
FALDER It was trouble all the time.
FROME You knew her husband?
FALDER Only through her--he's a brute.
THE JUDGE I can't allow indiscriminate abuse of a person not present.
FROME [Bowing] If your lordship pleases. [To FALDER] You admit altering this cheque?
FALDER bows his head.
FROME Carry your mind, please, to the morning of Friday, July the 7th, and tell the jury what happened.
FALDER [Turning to the jury] I was having my breakfast when she came. Her dress was all torn, and she was gasping and couldn't seem to get her breath at all; there were the marks of his fingers round her throat; her arm was bruised, and the blood had got into her eyes dreadfully. It frightened me, and then when she told me, I felt--I felt--well--it was too much for me! [Hardening suddenly] If you'd seen it, having the feelings for her that I had, you'd have felt the same, I know.
FALDER When she left me--because I had to go to the office--I was out of my senses for fear that he'd do it again, and thinking what I could do. I couldn't work--all the morning I was like that--simply couldn't fix my mind on anything. I couldn't think at all. I seemed to have to keep moving. When Davis--the other clerk--gave me the cheque--he said: "It'll do you good, Will, to have a run with this. You seem half off your chump this morning." Then when I had it in my hand--I don't know how it came, but it just flashed across me that if I put the 'ty' and the nought there would be the money to get her away. It just came and went--I never thought of it again. Then Davis went out to his luncheon, and I don't really remember what I did till I'd pushed the cheque through to the cashier under the rail. I remember his saying "Gold or notes?" Then I suppose I knew what I'd done. Anyway, when I got outside I wanted to chuck myself under a bus; I wanted to throw the money away; but it seemed I was in for it, so I thought at any rate I'd save her. Of course the tickets I took for the passage and the little I gave her's been wasted, and all, except what I was obliged to spend myself, I've restored. I keep thinking over and over however it was I came to do it, and how I can't have it all again to do differently!
FALDER is silent, twisting his hands before him.
FROME How far is it from your office to the bank?
FALDER Not more than fifty yards, sir.
FROME From the time Davis went out to lunch to the time you cashed the cheque, how long do you say it must have been?
FALDER It couldn't have been four minutes, sir, because I ran all the way.
FROME During those four minutes you say you remember nothing?
FALDER No, sir; only that I ran.
FROME Not even adding the 'ty' and the nought?'
FALDER No, sir. I don't really.
FROME sits down, and CLEAVER rises.
CLEAVER But you remember running, do you?
FALDER I was all out of breath when I got to the bank.
CLEAVER And you don't remember altering the cheque?
FALDER [Faintly] No, sir.
CLEAVER Divested of the romantic glamour which my friend is casting over the case, is this anything but an ordinary forgery? Come.
FALDER I was half frantic all that morning, sir.
CLEAVER Now, now! You don't deny that the 'ty' and the nought were so like the rest of the handwriting as to thoroughly deceive the cashier?
FALDER It was an accident.
CLEAVER [Cheerfully] Queer sort of accident, wasn't it? On which day did you alter the counterfoil?
FALDER [Hanging his head] On the Wednesday morning.
CLEAVER Was that an accident too?
FALDER [Faintly] No.
CLEAVER To do that you had to watch your opportunity, I suppose?
FALDER [Almost inaudibly] Yes.
CLEAVER You don't suggest that you were suffering under great excitement when you did that?
FALDER I was haunted.
CLEAVER With the fear of being found out?
FALDER [Very low] Yes.
THE JUDGE Didn't it occur to you that the only thing for you to do was to confess to your employers, and restore the money?
FALDER I was afraid. [There is silence]
CLEAVER You desired, too, no doubt, to complete your design of taking this woman away?
FALDER When I found I'd done a thing like that, to do it for nothing seemed so dreadful. I might just as well have chucked myself into the river.
CLEAVER You knew that the clerk Davis was about to leave England --didn't it occur to you when you altered this cheque that suspicion would fall on him?
FALDER It was all done in a moment. I thought of it afterwards.
CLEAVER And that didn't lead you to avow what you'd done?
FALDER [Sullenly] I meant to write when I got out there--I would have repaid the money.
THE JUDGE But in the meantime your innocent fellow clerk might have been prosecuted.
FALDER I knew he was a long way off, your lordship. I thought there'd be time. I didn't think they'd find it out so soon.
FROME I might remind your lordship that as Mr. Walter How had the cheque-book in his pocket till after Davis had sailed, if the discovery had been made only one day later Falder himself would have left, and suspicion would have attached to him, and not to Davis, from the beginning.
THE JUDGE The question is whether the prisoner knew that suspicion would light on himself, and not on Davis. [To FALDER sharply] Did you know that Mr. Walter How had the cheque-book till after Davis had sailed?
THE JUDGE Now speak the truth-yes or no!
FALDER [Very low] No, my lord. I had no means of knowing.
THE JUDGE That disposes of your point, Mr. Frome.
[FROME bows to the JUDGE]
CLEAVER Has any aberration of this nature ever attacked you before?
FALDER [Faintly] No, sir.
CLEAVER You had recovered sufficiently to go back to your work that afternoon?
FALDER Yes, I had to take the money back.
CLEAVER You mean the nine pounds. Your wits were sufficiently keen for you to remember that? And you still persist in saying you don't remember altering this cheque. [He sits down]
FALDER If I hadn't been mad I should never have had the courage.
FROME [Rising] Did you have your lunch before going back?
FALDER I never ate a thing all day; and at night I couldn't sleep.
FROME Now, as to the four minutes that elapsed between Davis's going out and your cashing the cheque: do you say that you recollect nothing during those four minutes?
FALDER [After a moment] I remember thinking of Mr. Cokeson's face.
FROME Of Mr. Cokeson's face! Had that any connection with what you were doing?
FALDER No, Sir.
FROME Was that in the office, before you ran out?
FALDER Yes, and while I was running.
FROME And that lasted till the cashier said: "Will you have gold or notes?"
FALDER Yes, and then I seemed to come to myself--and it was too late.
FROME Thank you. That closes the evidence for the defence, my lord.
The JUDGE nods, and FALDER goes back to his seat in the dock.
FROME [Gathering up notes] If it please your lordship--Gentlemen of the Jury,--My friend in cross-examination has shown a disposition to sneer at the defence which has been set up in this case, and I am free to admit that nothing I can say will move you, if the evidence has not already convinced you that the prisoner committed this act in a moment when to all practical intents and purposes he was not responsible for his actions; a moment of such mental and moral vacuity, arising from the violent emotional agitation under which he had been suffering, as to amount to temporary madness. My friend has alluded to the "romantic glamour" with which I have sought to invest this case. Gentlemen, I have done nothing of the kind. I have merely shown you the background of "life"--that palpitating life which, believe me--whatever my friend may say--always lies behind the commission of a crime. Now gentlemen, we live in a highly, civilized age, and the sight of brutal violence disturbs us in a very strange way, even when we have no personal interest in the matter. But when we see it inflicted on a woman whom we love--what then? Just think of what your own feelings would have been, each of you, at the prisoner's age; and then look at him. Well! he is hardly the comfortable, shall we say bucolic, person likely to contemplate with equanimity marks of gross violence on a woman to whom he was devotedly attached. Yes, gentlemen, look at him! He has not a strong face; but neither has he a vicious face. He is just the sort of man who would easily become the prey of his emotions. You have heard the description of his eyes. My friend may laugh at the word "funny"--I think it better describes the peculiar uncanny look of those who are strained to breaking-point than any other word which could have been used. I don't pretend, mind you, that his mental irresponsibility--was more than a flash of darkness, in which all sense of proportion became lost; but to contend, that, just as a man who destroys himself at such a moment may be, and often is, absolved from the stigma attaching to the crime of self-murder, so he may, and frequently does, commit other crimes while in this irresponsible condition, and that he may as justly be acquitted of criminal intent and treated as a patient. I admit that this is a plea which might well be abused. It is a matter for discretion. But here you have a case in which there is every reason to give the benefit of the doubt. You heard me ask the prisoner what he thought of during those four fatal minutes. What was his answer? "I thought of Mr. Cokeson's face!" Gentlemen, no man could invent an answer like that; it is absolutely stamped with truth. You have seen the great affection [legitimate or not] existing between him and this woman, who came here to give evidence for him at the risk of her life. It is impossible for you to doubt his distress on the morning when he committed this act. We well know what terrible havoc such distress can make in weak and highly nervous people. It was all the work of a moment. The rest has followed, as death follows a stab to the heart, or water drops if you hold up a jug to empty it. Believe me, gentlemen, there is nothing more tragic in life than the utter impossibility of changing what you have done. Once this cheque was altered and presented, the work of four minutes--four mad minutes --the rest has been silence. But in those four minutes the boy before you has slipped through a door, hardly opened, into that great cage which never again quite lets a man go--the cage of the Law. His further acts, his failure to confess, the alteration of the counterfoil, his preparations for flight, are all evidence--not of deliberate and guilty intention when he committed the prime act from which these subsequent acts arose; no--they are merely evidence of the weak character which is clearly enough his misfortune. But is a man to be lost because he is bred and born with a weak character? Gentlemen, men like the prisoner are destroyed daily under our law for want of that human insight which sees them as they are, patients, and not criminals. If the prisoner be found guilty, and treated as though he were a criminal type, he will, as all experience shows, in all probability become one. I beg you not to return a verdict that may thrust him back into prison and brand him for ever. Gentlemen, Justice is a machine that, when some one has once given it the starting push, rolls on of itself. Is this young man to be ground to pieces under this machine for an act which at the worst was one of weakness? Is he to become a member of the luckless crews that man those dark, ill-starred ships called prisons? Is that to be his voyage-from which so few return? Or is he to have another chance, to be still looked on as one who has gone a little astray, but who will come back? I urge you, gentlemen, do not ruin this young man! For, as a result of those four minutes, ruin, utter and irretrievable, stares him in the face. He can be saved now. Imprison him as a criminal, and I affirm to you that he will be lost. He has neither the face nor the manner of one who can survive that terrible ordeal. Weigh in the scales his criminality and the suffering he has undergone. The latter is ten times heavier already. He has lain in prison under this charge for more than two months. Is he likely ever to forget that? Imagine the anguish of his mind during that time. He has had his punishment, gentlemen, you may depend. The rolling of the chariot-wheels of Justice over this boy began when it was decided to prosecute him. We are now already at the second stage. If you permit it to go on to the third I would not give--that for him.
He holds up finger and thumb in the form of a circle, drops his hand, and sits dozen.
The jury stir, and consult each other's faces; then they turn towards the counsel for the Crown, who rises, and, fixing his eyes on a spot that seems to give him satisfaction, slides them every now and then towards the jury.
CLEAVER May it please your lordship--[Rising on his toes] Gentlemen of the Jury,--The facts in this case are not disputed, and the defence, if my friend will allow me to say so, is so thin that I don't propose to waste the time of the Court by taking you over the evidence. The plea is one of temporary insanity. Well, gentlemen, I daresay it is clearer to me than it is to you why this rather--what shall we call it?--bizarre defence has been set up. The alternative would have been to plead guilty. Now, gentlemen, if the prisoner had pleaded guilty my friend would have had to rely on a simple appeal to his lordship. Instead of that, he has gone into the byways and hedges and found this--er--peculiar plea, which has enabled him to show you the proverbial woman, to put her in the box--to give, in fact, a romantic glow to this affair. I compliment my friend; I think it highly ingenious of him. By these means, he has--to a certain extent--got round the Law. He has brought the whole story of motive and stress out in court, at first hand, in a way that he would not otherwise have been able to do. But when you have once grasped that fact, gentlemen, you have grasped everything. [With good-humoured contempt] For look at this plea of insanity; we can't put it lower than that. You have heard the woman. She has every reason to favour the prisoner, but what did she say? She said that the prisoner was not insane when she left him in the morning. If he were going out of his mind through distress, that was obviously the moment when insanity would have shown itself. You have heard the managing clerk, another witness for the defence. With some difficulty I elicited from him the admission that the prisoner, though jumpy [a word that he seemed to think you would understand, gentlemen, and I'm sure I hope you do], was not mad when the cheque was handed to Davis. I agree with my friend that it's unfortunate that we have not got Davis here, but the prisoner has told you the words with which Davis in turn handed him the cheque; he obviously, therefore, was not mad when he received it, or he would not have remembered those words. The cashier has told you that he was certainly in his senses when he cashed it. We have therefore the plea that a man who is sane at ten minutes past one, and sane at fifteen minutes past, may, for the purposes of avoiding the consequences of a crime, call himself insane between those points of time. Really, gentlemen, this is so peculiar a proposition that I am not disposed to weary you with further argument. You will form your own opinion of its value. My friend has adopted this way of saying a great deal to you--and very eloquently--on the score of youth, temptation, and the like. I might point out, however, that the offence with which the prisoner is charged is one of the most serious known to our law; and there are certain features in this case, such as the suspicion which he allowed to rest on his innocent fellow- clerk, and his relations with this married woman, which will render it difficult for you to attach too much importance to such pleading. I ask you, in short, gentlemen, for that verdict of guilty which, in the circumstances, I regard you as, unfortunately, bound to record.
Letting his eyes travel from the JUDGE and the jury to FROME, he sits down.
THE JUDGE [Bending a little towards the jury, and speaking in a business-like voice] Gentlemen, you have heard the evidence, and the comments on it. My only business is to make clear to you the issues you have to try. The facts are admitted, so far as the alteration of this cheque and counterfoil by the prisoner. The defence set up is that he was not in a responsible condition when he committed the crime. Well, you have heard the prisoner's story, and the evidence of the other witnesses--so far as it bears on the point of insanity. If you think that what you have heard establishes the fact that the prisoner was insane at the time of the forgery, you will find him guilty, but insane. If, on the other hand, you conclude from what you have seen and heard that the prisoner was sane--and nothing short of insanity will count--you will find him guilty. In reviewing the testimony as to his mental condition you must bear in mind very carefully the evidence as to his demeanour and conduct both before and after the act of forgery--the evidence of the prisoner himself, of the woman, of the witness--er--COKESON, and--er--of the cashier. And in regard to that I especially direct your attention to the prisoner's admission that the idea of adding the 'ty' and the nought did come into his mind at the moment when the cheque was handed to him; and also to the alteration of the counterfoil, and to his subsequent conduct generally. The bearing of all this on the question of premeditation [and premeditation will imply sanity] is very obvious. You must not allow any considerations of age or temptation to weigh with you in the finding of your verdict. Before you can come to a verdict of guilty but insane you must be well and thoroughly convinced that the condition of his mind was such as would have qualified him at the moment for a lunatic asylum. [He pauses, then, seeing that the jury are doubtful whether to retire or no, adds:] You may retire, gentlemen, if you wish to do so.
The jury retire by a door behind the JUDGE. The JUDGE bends over his notes. FALDER, leaning from the dock, speaks excitedly to his solicitor, pointing dawn at RUTH. The solicitor in turn speaks to FROME.
FROME [Rising] My lord. The prisoner is very anxious that I should ask you if your lordship would kindly request the reporters not to disclose the name of the woman witness in the Press reports of these proceedings. Your lordship will understand that the consequences might be extremely serious to her.
THE JUDGE [Pointedly--with the suspicion of a smile] well, Mr. Frome, you deliberately took this course which involved bringing her here.
FROME [With an ironic bow] If your lordship thinks I could have brought out the full facts in any other way?
THE JUDGE H'm! Well.
FROME There is very real danger to her, your lordship.
THE JUDGE You see, I have to take your word for all that.
FROME If your lordship would be so kind. I can assure your lordship that I am not exaggerating.
THE JUDGE It goes very much against the grain with me that the name of a witness should ever be suppressed. [With a glance at FALDER, who is gripping and clasping his hands before him, and then at RUTH, who is sitting perfectly rigid with her eyes fixed on FALDER] I'll consider your application. It must depend. I have to remember that she may have come here to commit perjury on the prisoner's behalf.
FROME Your lordship, I really----
THE JUDGE Yes, yes--I don't suggest anything of the sort, Mr. Frome. Leave it at that for the moment.
As he finishes speaking, the jury return, and file back into the box.
CLERK OF ASSIZE Gentlemen, are you agreed on your verdict?
FOREMAN We are.
CLERK OF ASSIZE Is it Guilty, or Guilty but insane?
The JUDGE nods; then, gathering up his notes, sits looking at FALDER, who stands motionless.
FROME [Rising] If your lordship would allow me to address you in mitigation of sentence. I don't know if your lordship thinks I can add anything to what I have said to the jury on the score of the prisoner's youth, and the great stress under which he acted.
THE JUDGE I don't think you can, Mr. Frome.
FROME If your lordship says so--I do most earnestly beg your lordship to give the utmost weight to my plea. [He sits down.]
THE JUDGE [To the CLERK] Call upon him.
THE CLERK Prisoner at the bar, you stand convicted of felony. Have you anything to say for yourself, why the Court should not give you judgment according to law? [FALDER shakes his head]
THE JUDGE William Falder, you have been given fair trial and found guilty, in my opinion rightly found guilty, of forgery. [He pauses; then, consulting his notes, goes on] The defence was set up that you were not responsible for your actions at the moment of committing this crime. There is no, doubt, I think, that this was a device to bring out at first hand the nature of the temptation to which you succumbed. For throughout the trial your counsel was in reality making an appeal for mercy. The setting up of this defence of course enabled him to put in some evidence that might weigh in that direction. Whether he was well advised to so is another matter. He claimed that you should be treated rather as a patient than as a criminal. And this plea of his, which in the end amounted to a passionate appeal, he based in effect on an indictment of the march of Justice, which he practically accused of confirming and completing the process of criminality. Now, in considering how far I should allow weight to his appeal; I have a number of factors to take into account. I have to consider on the one hand the grave nature of your offence, the deliberate way in which you subsequently altered the counterfoil, the danger you caused to an innocent man--and that, to my mind, is a very grave point--and finally I have to consider the necessity of deterring others from following your example. On the other hand, I have to bear in mind that you are young, that you have hitherto borne a good character, that you were, if I am to believe your evidence and that of your witnesses, in a state of some emotional excitement when you committed this crime. I have every wish, consistently with my duty--not only to you, but to the community--to treat you with leniency. And this brings me to what are the determining factors in my mind in my consideration of your case. You are a clerk in a lawyer's office--that is a very serious element in this case; there can be no possible excuse made for you on the ground that you were not fully conversant with the nature of the crime you were committing, and the penalties that attach to it. It is said, however, that you were carried away by your emotions. The story has been told here to-day of your relations with this--er--Mrs. Honeywill; on that story both the defence and the plea for mercy were in effect based. Now what is that story? It is that you, a young man, and she, a young woman, unhappily married, had formed an attachment, which you both say--with what truth I am unable to gauge- -had not yet resulted in immoral relations, but which you both admit was about to result in such relationship. Your counsel has made an attempt to palliate this, on the ground that the woman is in what he describes, I think, as "a hopeless position." As to that I can express no opinion. She is a married woman, and the fact is patent that you committed this crime with the view of furthering an immoral design. Now, however I might wish, I am not able to justify to my conscience a plea for mercy which has a basis inimical to morality. It is vitiated 'ab initio', and would, if successful, free you for the completion of this immoral project. Your counsel has made an attempt to trace your offence back to what he seems to suggest is a defect in the marriage law; he has made an attempt also to show that to punish you with further imprisonment would be unjust. I do not follow him in these flights. The Law is what it is--a majestic edifice, sheltering all of us, each stone of which rests on another. I am concerned only with its administration. The crime you have committed is a very serious one. I cannot feel it in accordance with my duty to Society to exercise the powers I have in your favour. You will go to penal servitude for three years.
FALDER, who throughout the JUDGE'S speech has looked at him steadily, lets his head fall forward on his breast. RUTH starts up from her seat as he is taken out by the warders. There is a bustle in court.
THE JUDGE [Speaking to the reporters] Gentlemen of the Press, I think that the name of the female witness should not be reported.
The reporters bow their acquiescence. THE JUDGE. [To RUTH, who is staring in the direction in which FALDER has disappeared] Do you understand, your name will not be mentioned?
COKESON [Pulling her sleeve] The judge is speaking to you.
RUTH turns, stares at the JUDGE, and turns away.
THE JUDGE I shall sit rather late to-day. Call the next case.
CLERK OF ASSIZE [To a warder] Put up John Booley.
To cries of "Witnesses in the case of Booley":